| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(October 18, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Let us be honest and face it. President Mahinda Rajapaksa won the hearts of Tamils in the North when he re-launched Yal Devi after 24 years. To give the devil its due, he is making every effort to compensate Tamils who are still reeling from the futile war for a utopia of a separate state in the North and East for which Tamil politicians and diaspora are feuding.
It appears he is genuine in bridging the gap between North and South through his post- war attempts no matter how he is perceived internationally and how his defeat of the LTTE is leading him to UNHRC war crimes probe.
It is with nostalgia I recall Jacinthan Armstrong who was in my class in Standard Two when he bragged he placed safety pins on the rail track and it would turn into a sharp blade. He also boasted that the pencil provided with Reader’s Digest had an umbrella which he used to shade him from rain! He had a vivid imagination and we fell for his tales hook, line and sinker.
After assembly and PT, the first lesson during my O/L was maths. But I spent time counting the compartments of coal carriages which sped past Holy Family Convent and it took Lawrence Master to prepare me for Maths O/L since Sister Christobel did not particularly explain the rudiments of algebra or geometry. I do not think it was Yal Devi but nevertheless it detracted me enough to forget maths. To this very day I am incomprehensible to sort out my tax return.
We travelled to Stellenberg Estate in Gampola during our school holidays to our uncle’s house by Yal Devi in the sixties changing train at Polgahawela and we travelled in style. Since my father was working at the Department of Education we had warrants which enabled us to have a berth in the first class compartment where liveried waiters served us full English breakfast consisting of buttered toast with Marmite and marmalade and bull’s eye egg along with freshly ground coffee to wash it all down. We stayed at Polgahawela Rest House overnight before we took the early train to proceed to Kandy.
It was the preparations for the journey and restless night before the trip which brings back nostalgic memories. We were decked in our best dresses new shoes with socks for the train journey and we wore sweaters. My mother made delicious sandwiches ,Thermos flask of coffe and orange squash drinks to see us through the long trip which took the best part of 24 hours in toto.
Reminiscences aside, sometimes it becomes imperative to shed our hang-ups and foolish pride and go with the flow or else we would be committing the same mistakes our former politicians made and caused the LTTE to wreak havoc across the island. It is in the interests of the Tamils the Northern Provincial Council co-operates with the government if it has their concerns and ambitions and win its good offices rather attacking it like a stubborn mule.
The majority Sinhalese have no compunction to side-line Tamils unless they turn down the government’s overture to develop North and East when politicians spar with one another for their own egocentric purposes. For all the opposition the governor Major Chandrasiri and Minister Douglas Devananda are facing from NPC, they have made considerable strides in developing North.
Not attempting to cast aspersions on Chief Minister Wigneswaran who despite complaints that he is being manipulated by Sampanthan and Sumanthiran should do all he can to exert his leadership and utilise funds already available for the North. The trio would do well to work to work together, shed their differences with Devananda and Chandrasiri if only to uplift the North and bring a semblance of decent livelihood to its people.
It is all very well to scream Tamil pride but at the end of the day you cannot eat principles or patriotism.
(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)